COVID changes cause ‘tremendous pressure, adversity on staff students, families’

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MONROE, CT — Acting Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza was still working with fellow administrators at Central Office Friday evening at the end of a turbulent week. The district was shaken by positive COVID-19 tests among people at Masuk, Jockey Hollow and Monroe Elementary schools earlier in the week.

After a meeting Friday, Kobza sent out an email informing families all three elementary schools will go back to the hybrid learning model, a mix of in-person and remote learning, as the coronavirus continues its rapid spread throughout the country.

“It was overwhelmingly time consuming,” he said. “It basically consumed nearly every second of our work week, and I assume quite a bit of our weekend.”

During the year, the elementary schools had switched back to in-person learning when COVID cases were under control. This weekend, Kobza said educators will prepare for the logistics of switching learning models again.

“I understand the bind that any change puts families in, and I just hope they can stay as patient as they can with us,” he said.

“I think all these changes are creating tremendous pressure and adversity on staff, students and families,” Kobza added. It’s been a very difficult year. I can’t say enough about how hard all staff has worked to get us to the point where we are right now.”

On Tuesday, the district learned of three new cases at Monroe Elementary School, one at Masuk, one at Jockey Hollow and of a district employee who tested positive. It was late in the day, so the buildings were closed to allow time for contact tracing.

The district has been working closely with the Monroe Health Department, Connecticut Department of Public Health, and its District Health Team. When COVID makes schools switch to remote learning, Kobza said All Star, the bus company, and Sodexo, the food service company, must be notified.

Though Kobza said there is “very little evidence of person to person transmission” in Monroe’s school buildings, he noted cases from outside are having a ripple effect on staffing.

For example, when teachers must quarantine due to possible exposure or need time off when their own children are home for remote learning when their schools close, Kobza said it makes it more difficult to staff Monroe’s schools.

An email to families

For the best way to stay informed, Kobza said the parents should routinely check their emails. On Friday he sent out the following message:

Dear MPS Community,

The District Health Team met this morning to analyze the current health metrics that we are experiencing in Monroe. Based on the increasing spread of COVID-19 in our community, the decision has been made to return all district elementary schools back to our original hybrid cohort model of instruction, beginning Monday, Nov. 16, 2020.  In addition, schools at all levels will have fully remote instruction on Wednesdays.  *Please see the tables below.  The principals from each school will communicate schedules for students and families. (Please note:  Jockey Hollow Main Campus will remain in full remote instruction for the week of Nov. 16 – 20.)  

Like all of our surrounding towns, Monroe is currently in the “Red Zone” on the Town Alert System.  The town is currently experiencing 24.6 new cases per 100,000 people based on a 14 day average.  The decision to return to the hybrid schedule allows us to create a safer environment by reducing person density in our buildings.  This shift allows us to maintain as much in-person learning while increasing our health and safety protocols. 

We believe that our mitigation strategies within the schools have been effective in reducing the spread of COVID. Nonetheless, we feel it is necessary with the recent increase in cases to implement further strategies to limit person-to-person contact for our students and staff. 

We understand the impact that the hybrid model has on families for child care arrangements. We urge our families to not only plan for the upcoming hybrid model but also for the potential need for a fully distance learning model should the circumstances require.

I want to thank Dr. Dayan (School Medical Advisor), Nancy Brault (Town Health Director), and Jo-Ann Perigyi (School Nurse Advisor) for their expertise and collaboration in this decision.

Sincerely,

Joe Kobza

Acting Superintendent

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